5 Usability Testing Mistakes You’re Still Making (And How to Fix Them)

Usability testing is crucial for creating great user experiences, but many teams make common mistakes. Learn how to avoid these 5 usability testing pitfalls.

Reshu Rathi
March 24, 2023
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When done right, usability testing can be one of the most valuable tools for creating a great user experience. It is no wonder, then, that usability testing is one of the most popular forms of user research.

You can use usability testing to see how users navigate your product and identify friction points in the user journey while using your website, app, etc. You can use the results to redesign and reiterate until you transform what was once complex into a delight for your users.  

Even though usability testing aims to identify problems and errors in the design of products and services, the process itself is not immune to mistakes or errors.  

So, it’s useful for anyone working in user research and testing to recognize these usability testing mistakes and be able to see them coming. With that in mind, here are five usability testing mistakes and ways to fix them.  

Mistake 1- Not Defining the End-user of the Product

Defining the product’s end-user before you start conducting your usability testing is crucial since this will help you recruit the right participants. And the right participants can lead to feedback that solves problems for your real users.  

Imagine if you’re selling products for teenagers but testing your website on people in their 60s. Can you get any meaningful insights from it? It is easy to predict that the results will have little value as your target audiences are wrong, and how they navigate through your website won’t tell you anything about how your actual users will.  

So as a researcher, you must remember that the participants are the core component of research or tests. Failing to recruit the right test participants will waste your time or give you suboptimal data. At worst, it will lead you down a completely wrong path.  

Also, thinking of your participants as merely test subjects is a mistake; they are all individuals with different personalities and ways of doing things.  

How to Fix This Mistake  

Start by defining your user personas – who your app or product is for and the people you want to target. But don’t be too specific about it – you need to test it on people who will use your product and those who might. This will help you create more valuable results and ensure everyone can use your products.  

Now we know that finding and recruiting the right participants representing your target group is challenging, especially if you are targeting niche users or need access to your users. With the Affect UX platform, you can find your target audience with just a few clicks from our panel of over 60 million respondents.

Mistake 2 – Not Setting the Right Tasks

Failing to set clear tasks would confuse your testers, who may end up fiddling about without really doing anything of value. This would lead to wasted time and effort on both sides. For instance, you notice a drop in users on the payment page of your grocery app and want to understand why that is happening. However, you do not clearly communicate in the task what exactly the users are expected to do. Without proper instructions, testers may simply browse the app and add items to the cart without proceeding to the payment page.  

How to Fix This Mistake

Before even beginning the testing, it is important to clearly understand what you are testing and what you aim to achieve from it. It is imperative to give clear instructions to the testers before they even begin the task. And once they do, the task needs to be of short duration and as straightforward as possible. Even when you need insights on multiple journeys, it is always recommended to break it down into simpler tasks so that it is easier for the testers to undertake the task and for you to analyze it after it is done.  

Mistake 3- Asking Leading and Loaded Questions

Usability testing aims to gather honest and unfiltered feedback about your website, app, or product. But what you find depends on how you set your tasks, frame your questions, and analyze these findings.  

A common source of bias in usability tests is leading questions. This bias occurs when the researcher frames a question to elicit a specific answer with a particular emotion.  

When you ask questions, you must try not to introduce bias by telling respondents your expectation of the answer. For instance, a leading question would be – what did you like about the experience? A slightly less biased question would be; tell me, did you like that experience? An unbiased question would be – how was your experience with the task you just completed?  

How to Fix This Mistake

Ask questions that do not assume anything, and then listen carefully to the response. Avoid questions that can be easily answered with a one-word response. Once participants start talking, be quiet and give them time to think and respond. Refrain from interrupting them in between.

Mistake 4- Not Conducting a Pilot Test

One of the biggest mistakes most researchers make when conducting usability testing is not running a pilot test.  

Conducting a pilot test is imperative because it helps fine-tune the test, leading to more reliable results. This way, you can find any problem with your prototype that might stop participants from completing the task. Also, this will help in knowing how long the test will take and if your script is understandable.

How to Fix This Mistake

Run the pilot test 1-2 days before conducting the session so that you have time to fix any technical issues and change the wording of your questions or the flow of your scenarios if they seem confusing.

Mistake 5- Not Involving the Design Team in Usability Testing

It may be tempting to assume that the design team doesn’t need to be part of your usability testing studies, but that could be a big mistake. You can’t solve your usability issues by relaying information to the design team. Why? Because a lot can get lost in translation.

You need to involve the design team in the studies to show them how real users interact with the product and what problems they face. This makes them feel more involved, interested and invested in the process, rather than reading a report about the usability problems users experienced.  

How to Fix This Mistake  

The answer is to involve the design team during these usability sessions or let them watch the videos. When the design team watches the real users going through their struggles, they will be better able to empathize with them. Plus, they are more likely to understand the issue better if they were involved in the testing.  


Key Takeaways

Here’s a quick recap of the common usability testing mistakes and how to avoid them – to ensure that such mistakes don’t occur in the future:

Usability Testing Mistakes

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Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
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Author Bio

Reshu Rathi
Reshu Rathi is an online marketing and conversion rate enthusiast. She specializes in content marketing, lead generation, and engagement strategy. Her byline can be found all over the web

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